The Undesirable Child

A shocking news once again exposed the fact that how desirable sons are in Indian society. And up to what extent many prejudiced Indians are willing to go to get a male child.

At the age of 70 years, this woman went for assisted reproductive technology (ART) to conceive and has given birth to twins, one boy and one girl. The rural couple said in the interview that they have lots of property but had no “heir”. Apparently their two daughters can’t inherit it as I suppose they have done a crime by being born as girls. Challenging the limitations set by Mother Nature, a woman risks her life just to have a son because of deep rooted age old beliefs and discrimination against the girl child. The couple is so old that I doubt if they would be able to see their son reach 5th grade. After they pass away who is going to look after the kids? Their sisters or their relatives? I can’t even imagine the embarrassment the daughters must be going through. Imagine the grandchildren going to school where everyone knows their grandma has given birth to their uncle!! Its being ethically justified on the grounds that there is no maximum age limit for ART in Indian Law. Even young women conceive one after another just to get a son and end up having a huge family and losing their health, sometimes even life.

Our ancient sacred scriptures tell us some codes of living but it seems some of us have not realized the incorrectness of those and continue to follow such hollow beliefs.

Indian society, like most of the societies world over, is patrilineal, patriarchal and patrilocal. According to Manu, a man has to be reborn as a man to attain moksha (redemption). A man cannot attain moksha unless he has a son to light his funeral pyre. Also, it says a woman who gives birth to only daughters may be left in the eleventh year of marriage.

It seems the appalling desperation and the irrational desire for a son in India is reaching new heights . The issues of foeticide and infanticides are known to one and all. Indian couples going abroad to get sex determination done is another example of this obnoxious desire. In rural India where the birth of son is announced by conch shells, the girl child invites sympathetic and sarcastic comments.

The age old preference for sons is motivated by economic, religious, social and emotional desires and norms that favor males and make females less desirable. Parents expect sons—but not daughters—to provide financial and emotional care, especially in their old age; sons add to family wealth and property while daughters drain it through dowries; sons continue the family lineage while daughters are married away to another household; sons perform important religious roles; and sons defend or exercise the family’s power while daughters have to be defended and protected, creating a perceived burden on the household.

The discrimination in terms of basic facilities is pushing the country back in terms of literacy and women empowerment. Abortions based on sex of the foetus has given rise to the problem of unavailability of girls in some communities, which in turn has led to the practice of polyandry in such communities. If all of these practices are not stopped, a distorted gender ratio will lead to more socio-economic problems.

Another outcome of this preferential behaviour is the frequent cases of abandonment of infants coming to light. Baby girls ranging from one day to four months old have been found abandoned in dustbins or in trains or in polythene bags or down civic pipes. Polythene bags?? Is the baby some sort of vegetable waste that the mother / family gets the courage and has the heart to throw her away?? To leave her to die?? Sometimes baby boys are abandoned too but then its mostly due to the mother being unmarried. All this makes me think the so called attachment of a mother and the belief a mother can never harm her child; are all myths. Atleast not applicable to each and every mother.

And all this in a country where the majority are Hindus and worship so many goddesses!! In a place following the concept of Shakti?? I say stop this hypocrisy if one can’t put that in practice. Do these people never stop to think that if all of them had sons, how will their caste/community/human race propagate and exist? It seems the animals know better than us. And I believe its a crime to be born a girl especially in India. The struggles of a girl child starts from her foetal stage till the last day of her life. Its a struggle to exist, a daily struggle to live with dignity and to be treated as a human instead of a burden or a cheque waiting to be cashed or an object to provide pleasure or a machine to work and produce sons.

Often I meet people who ask me about my family and when I say we are two sisters, their next question is invariably the same, asked in the same sympathetic tone with the same pitiful expression “No brothers?” I answer politely “no” but in my mind I’m like “Didn’t you hear? I said 2 sisters. Obviously that means no brothers, moron”. But I’m kind of losing my patience with such people. So next person who asks me that is in lot of trouble. And frankly speaking I think a sister is the best sibling one could have.

Thank you Dad and Mom for never letting us feel that we were lacking in any way by being girls, for believing in us and inspiring us to achieve what we wanted. In return we promise you to fulfill the so called duties of a son in Indian society.

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67 thoughts on “The Undesirable Child

  1. Good post Reema! And even I thank my parents for bringing me up with the belief that girls and boys were equally important. How lucky we are! I had a brother but if I was never given an impression that he was superior in any way and in fact he used to imitate me! :)
    What worries me is that more men don’t blog about such issues, even those men who believe in equality of men and women. I was really glad to see Amit’s post on dowry.
    For some strange reason writing about human rights is termed as feminism and I think this is what makes men hesitate to write about such issues. I don’t consider myself as a feminist because I love to do the “women” things and I feel no shame in doing it. But when it comes to human rights, that is not feminism. That is injustice which has to be fought tooth and nail by all those men and women who believe that women should not be discriminated against.

  2. Nice post! I liked this one! There was another recent news a few days ago, where they found a 2-day old baby girl who had been wrapped in polythene and thrown into the river! Miraculously, she survived… How can such people be so heartless?

  3. good psot.. and ned of a day!

    but the scenario in urban indian might be changing… i know so many couples in my family atleast those have got a single girl child and that to by choice :) isn’t it heartening! :)

    I too am a single child and have only one daughter. Dont wish to have another child :)

    And I did the last rights for my father who passed away a few months back…

    I hope things change fast across our country otherwise males will have difficulty in finding partners tomorrow… and this is not a joke!!

    The ratio is already skewed right now! :(

  4. Completely Agree !! .. A great thought-provoking post !!

    My mom-dad both are gynecologists and their private hospital is in the area which comprises of lower middcle class population .. They hv seen so many incidents where a poor (I mean extremely poor) couple which already hv 4 children (all are girls) and still tht couple wanna try for one more unless and until they get a boy .. In this process, sometimes they have accumulated 8 children – sometimes 9 or 10 .. My mom-dad always try their best to convince them to go for a family-planning but they never understand it .. And as the gender-identification for a fertile is banned, they even cant abort it as it might be a boy .. So it’s a pity story everywhere .. Even in higher middle class or in rich class – this thing exists ..

  5. @ Reema:

    There is bound to be one positive outcome of all this. Soon there will be no women left for men to marry and produce children with. And the Indian population problem will finally be solved. (Tongue firmly in cheek, for those who have had a sense-of-humour bypass).

  6. @Reema – Awesome post felli`! Not that I wasn’t impressed, now I am super impressed. But this post scares the hell out of me coz’ I want to be born again as a girl :)

    @Shefaly – LOL! I was just imagining, all guys, and no girls – damn! It would be happy gay world!

    On a serious note, its cruel to see such discrimination happening till date – ever wondered what the root cause could be? Is it not being literate? Is is economic? Awareness? Or is it the easy answer-It’s a viscious cycle-? It’s sad. I am gonna pray everyday that I get a baby girl and I am gonna love her loads. I like the name Sarah :)

  7. what else can i say except i agree too, it shuldn’t happen, but it still does, the whole problem is that we take our religion more seriously than our logic…..even when i tell my bhabhi ki ur second child will be a girl too, she gets upset and tells me not to say such “apshagun” things, that gives me nausea, seriouly

  8. great post and a very important, though over-looked issue prevalent in our society. The main cause of this is the stubbornness of the 1st generation (considering myself of 3rd generation). I believe, with very high hopes, that once this generation loses it’s control over the 2nd generation, naturally or otherwise, we’ll be in a much better place.

  9. Great post..did you by any chance take a peek into my drafts. :)

    I have more things to add, I will link your post. I feel indebted to my parents each time I read such news. I am glad they brought me into this world and treated me just as they would treat they son.

  10. @ RJ *gay world* hun? :P

    btw, sarah is a good name! :)

    Have u found the girl yet to get sarah from her? :P

  11. good post…its a disgrace actually to see the discrimination on the base of sex..
    until strict laws are implemented in villages there would be hardly any improvement..i guess the panchayats support this kind of discrimination ..

  12. It leaves one speechless when one gets to hear such incidents. India is going back to its black past when the world is moving ahead at full speed. To curb this sex discrimination practice, the first step has to be taken by females only. They should simply say NO for bearing a child just because the family is waiting for a heir. It’s a stupidity to reproduce and increase the head count in the family just to have a son. People don’t understand that more heads means more expenditures. Practices like dowry add to the agony making female child a burden on the family.

  13. Good post. Nita is right, I too think it is not feminism, it is humanism. It never is about one gender being superior to another. Of course there are biological gender differences in all species, but socially, no gender should be at a disadvantage. Especially when we call ourselves the most intelligent and civilized animal. Everyone should have equal rights and meritocracy should be enforced. And cruelty towards women is just another type of genocide.

  14. Ooops !!

    Okay, I am an economics graduate… lets apply the demand there here .. if there is lot of demand, the price will go high .. now that solves why we have to give soooo much dowry ….

    well, when I would prefer a girl child … I don’t know why ..but I feel so, so does she …

  15. @Nita Thanks! U have pointed out a very true fact. I too dont find male bloggers expressing their views on human rights. Amit did a good job by posting on dowry.

    @Nikhil Thanks! U know I was searching for that same news to link on my post but I just couldnt find it anywhere. That news and this 70 yr old one provoked me to write this post.

    @Sakhi Thanks! The urban scenario is changing in some parts but in some they r using the money to go to UK to get sex determination done there. We have a long way to go to achieve what its like in “western culture”…where the very concept of prejudice against the sex of a baby doesnt exist.

    @Soham Thanks! These people dont understand that they would have been in a better financial condition if they had less mouths to feed. As soon as their kids grow up a little they are put to work and thus increasing illiteracy, crime, abortion and foeticide. Its a vicious circle indeed.

  16. @Shefaly LOL :D yes!! but then again no!! think about all the females in neighbouring countries..they will have Indian men stalking them,kidnapping,raping, what not! :D

    @RJ Thanks hero!! Ohh do u want to be born in India only? And I hope by the time u r reincarnated Indian scenario would have changed a lot. As I said to Soham its a vicious circle. One effect leading to another…but if we open our minds & start the change it will slowly but surely change the whole scenario. Sarah???? U will keep that being a Hindu? Is it an Italian name?? :P ;)

    @Jaspreet I think its more traditions than religion. Maybe if we took a lesson or two from our religion we would respect the female child like we do Goddess Durga.U know I desire to have daughters only..somehow the thought of sons doesnt appeal to me.

    @Adarsh Thanks! yes thats true…once open minded people like us increase in numbers and get to break the stronghold of absurd beliefs and traditions, India will be a better place for the girl child.

  17. @Reema
    Now, thats sexist too, why only girls and not boys, i think children are a gift of god, aakhir “mehnat ka phal” hain yaar ;).. ladka ho ya ladki, both should be accepted.
    Yeah, but u know hinduism only says that having an offspring to carry the family name forward is imp.
    P.S. could u reply to me as perx only, i think its cooler :P

  18. @Poonam Thanks!! :D Xylene had also once said the same thing to me!! :D looks like I have premonition power :D Thanks for linking me. I was such a handful as a kid that my parents believe i was set out to be a boy but somehow ended up being a girl. :D

    @Sakhi I think RJ has found the source of Sarah. :P

    @Sandeep LOL :D A study must be taken up to research this interesting topic. U know in a frog species due to lack of males, few females turn into males for propagation of species. And it doesnt take place vice versa. So Indians need to understand this. ;)

    @Arvind Thanks! Its not a practice prevalent only in villages!! Its taking place even in high class people. Legislation is not a sufficient answer to this problem. It requires creating awareness and changing age-old mindsets.

  19. @Willow yes the onus of changing the attitude lies on the shoulders of the mothers mainly. But the strength to say no will come from financial independence and security. No matter how life shines in metros, there are still lots of people in Real India where the wife is a cook-child bearer-cash bringer-clothes washer-mute sex partner-chores doer of the household. I think reducing the practice of dowry will have a direct impact on the rate of foeticide/infanticide.

    @Didi Thanks! Totally agree with u.

    @Dinu Welcome to my blog!Err didnt quite get the demand & price analogy.But one thing is sure if we females become rare, then we will demand dowry to marry a guy. :P Keep visiting!!

    @Taju Thanks! yes thats true…the change has begun from this generation. But then again maybe not..as perceived from Amit’s post on dowry.

  20. @Vishesh Koi bhi desh perfect nahi hota. Usko perfect banana padta hai. :D

    @RJ Liar!!

    @Shefaly Sure!! I’ll be looking forward to read it.

    @Perx Somehow I dont like small boys. :P :) I’m not discriminating and they may be angels but for me they r little devils. Girls are really sweet. But as I have said in my earlier post, the thing we avoid most comes to us. I’m sure I’ll end up having a boy. :(

  21. When I was in 10th, I had a math teacher who had 6 daughters. Each daughter created in the hope of a son. He was so desperate to get a son and finally got one in the form of a 7th child(although I was praying that he get a girl again). His daughters were so talented but he was always turning a blind eye. I always believed that it was not only him but his wife too, who was an equal culprit. Such an educated man and still so pathetic.
    I wonder what can change the heart of such men? Jail maybe?

  22. @reema
    oh, girls are sweet alright, u haven’t met my niece yet, she is a piece of work i tell ya… such a menace she is and is just 2 years old, u know on last diwali, we went to pizza hut and this small boy came near her, and she bit his hand! can u believe that? for no apparent reason, i wish to give many more examples but u’ll be bored, all i’m saying is, ladkiyaan shararton mein bhi ladkon se kam nahi…lol

  23. Glad to know that your parents never made you feel any less, and rightly so.
    It’s true that still many Indians -primarily poor/uneducated ones- prefer sons rather than daughters, but I could see that things are changing among our generation. I know many people in my parents generation who, though well educated and liberal otherwise, still longed for sons.
    Now, most of the young people I know or hear about are pretty cool about having daughters.
    Ofcourse, it’s still early to celebrate any change, but things are indeed changing and Iam optimistic about the future.

  24. @ Reems

    the scenario should change and change fast!

    Aur ye tu kya baat kar rahi hai? RJ found the source for Sarah.. that’s cool! :)

    @ RJ tune bataaya nahi ki you have found the source for sarah.. ;) kab, kahaan, kaise… tum to bade chhupe rustam nikle! :P :)

    niks ke baad tu bhi… ?

  25. @Amit OMG!! 7 kids!! I wonder how the women do it! I’m so afraid of labour that I really dont feel like giving birth to a kid. I would be more happy to adopt. :)Legislation and punishment cant change the mindsets. If it did ,then all criminals would be better persons after release from jail. The desire for change and the understanding of wrong has to come from within.

    @Perx Girls rule!! :P

    @Dev yes we all are optimistic and sure that we will bring about a change by joining hands on such issues.

    @Robert Welcome to India :(

    @Sakhi :D :D

  26. yups…sucks big time.
    i remember my dad’s youngest brother going depressed and crazy after his daughter was born…and the thing is all my cousins are brothers and finally there was a girl and everyone was happy, except for my uncle. we all had to talk some sense to him.

    about the number of kids part…

    my mother has 5 sisters and 3 brothers…this is a single family by the way and one child died after birth so thats 10.
    its fun when i go for some family function or some occasion.

    All are doing pretty fine though :)

  27. @E.H. Family prosperity inspite of size depends on their financial condition. many are not that lucky as ur mother’s side. Infact there are many siblings on my father and mother side too.

  28. @Reems – I am not a Liar! No its not a italian name :D :P I dont mind if its a Italian name too!! My mom will kick the heck outta me :D

    @Saks – No chupa rustom! Reems is making stories here!

  29. @RJ U think u only have the right to tease? This game can be played by two :D :P

    @Sakhi No really. See Sarah is a Christian name…so RJ needs a Christian girl..all i m saying he has found one.

  30. thats a real nice post!!! but I think the scenario changed very much in recent years, that too in urban areas. Let us hope the same thing will spread across the country.

  31. @Kanagu welcome to my blog! Thanks!! The change is superficial I feel. Deep down this attitude is still there. I guess the new generation may bring about a change in mindset. Keep visiting!

  32. Nice post. Yes..reflects a lot on not wanting a girl. I had read this news item about the old woman. Comments like thank God, with the situation you are in, you have a boy and not a girl! I am like shut up! I wished A were a girl and the situation I am in does not change that one bit. I would have been happy with the girl probably much more than I am with A.
    Kudos to your parents for not being the stereotypes all around. My parents were glad when I was born; my brother, when he had his second kid; all of us were routing for a girl. I wish more such parents come out and not make it the way people put it…all boys around. All jokes apart about homosexuality; it is just not ideal.
    On this note, I should say I came across my tailor/designer who does block prints, embroidery and stuff. She gives the money she gets from this to her mom who runs an organisation in Bihar to save the girl babies. She told me about one incident where the father held a gun to the doctor’s head saying the umbilical cord must not be cut as the kid was a girl!!!! Giving poisonous extract from plants to baby girls to kill them is prevalent and has been written about in Tamil Nadu. Atrocities all of them; wish for death sentences to people who commit such crimes! May they rot in hell!!!!
    Sorry got a bit too vocal! :)

  33. @Apar Thanks! How can people comment like that?? Grrr so very irritating! OMG!! I’m shocked to know such incidents. May they all be rot in hell! Its ok..u can be as vocal as u want on my blog :)

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  36. A very interesting and thought provoking article. It is perhaps also necessary to think of the parents – who through the prevalation of tilted beliefs and social constructs have made such painful decisions.

    It isn’t difficult to imagine how the social pressures bring about such decisions but the emotional consequences of these must be deeply felt – if not consciously then subconsciously and if not that then spiritually.

    I am included in this world – whether I choose to be responsible for certain things or no –

    For this reason I cannot condemn such parents to hell – because the social structure that has caused such a decision to come into existence includes me – whether I feel/accept responsibility or no.

    I am not saying that I/we should be responsible – that is everyones choice to decide – but what I am saying is that it was in greater part a social structure and belief that make parents commit such awful acts – and – whether I like it or not I am apart of society.

    For my part I feel sad and compassion for those parents who have committed such acts – I also feel sad and compassion for the world – because it is in its home that such acts are committed.

    May we all be guided to place our energies in the right place so that the world becomes a place where such horrors are non-existent

    Kal

  37. @Kal I think being forced by wrong beliefs and social structure is not a justification of any act that is morally wrong. Opposing them and doing the right thing is what parents need to do and for this they need to open their minds first and not just blindly follow any belief. I have no compassion for those who commit such acts and give the cause of tradition and belief.

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  41. Reema, I liked your post.I wrote two posts in my blog regarding the issue of male child preference.

    You might like to read them.They are in line with your thoughts.Though it does not feel good sending links through comments page,i am doing it.

    By the way you are a great writer :-) You should have given little more details about what you do etc in an ‘about’ page in the blog.

    http://askdheeraj.wordpress.com/2009/05/09/maleomania-a-societys-obsession-with-sons/

    http://askdheeraj.wordpress.com/2009/05/11/familys-poorbcg-analysis-of-children-sons-as-stars-daughters-as-dogs/

  42. This is a news item that had me feeling appalled too. A woman becomes a mother again at 70 for a son. One wonders of she has given even a second’s thought to the future of these children she has given birth too at this late stage in life. Perhaps she expects the very same daughters who were not enough for her, to take care of their uncle in the event of her death??
    Wonderfully articulated post.

  43. You are right Reema Ji.
    Stree Srishti ki janani hai – yet, we as a society, keep her chained, insult her, use her, even kill her. It didn’t change in my lifetime – I don’t know if it will ever change…I my village, the girl-child isn’t killed, yet she is considered a liability and often married off at an early age.
    I hope more people read your post – especially people who are still being brain-washed into believing that women are not our equals.
    – Gorakh Nath.

  44. noooooooo how fulish people u all r thats toooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo booooring !!!

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